All season long, it appeared Polo and Milford-Cissna Park were on a collision course in the Illinois 8-Man Football Association.
Their paths will finally cross on Friday night at Monmouth College, when the Marcos and Bearcats tee it up in the championship game of the I8FA. Both teams are 11-0.
“This has been our goal since we first started lifting weights way back in June,” Polo lineman Cole Faivre said. “Not only was it our goal, but we expected ourselves to be here, and now we’re here. We’re going to enjoy it.”
Many of the 16 teams in the league played each other in the regular season or playoffs previously this season, but it will be the first meeting between Polo and Milford-Cissna Park. Both squads were statistically dominant.
MCP has outscored its 11 opponents 652-224, and has put up 62 points in each of its playoff victories against Bunker Hill and Flanagan-Cornell/Woodland. After watching tape of the Bearcats, Polo standout Jace Coffey is impressed with what he’s seen.
“They’re fast, they’re shifty, and they are big,” Coffey said. “They’re a good team. It’s not like we’re going to go down there and play a bad team. They’re really good. We’ve got to go there and have the mindset like we have every other game.”
Leading the way for MCP is senior quarterback Penn Stoller, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior quarterback and linebacker. Stoller has rushed 104 times for 1,419 yards, for a gaudy 13.6 average. He has also scored 25 touchdowns.
Stoller is equally adept in the passing game, as he’s completed 44 of 74 passes for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns, with just two interceptions.
“He throws the ball well, he runs the ball well, and he’s kind of like [Polo QB] Tucker [Mumford],” Polo coach Jeff Bumsted said. “He gives it to the right guy at the right time.”
Stoller’s top targets are Keegan Boyle, with 15 catches for 628 yards and 10 touchdowns, and Nick Allen, with 16 receptions for 435 yards and nine scores. Both players are listed at 5-8, 165.
The other main running threat, besides Stoller, is Angel Salinas, who has 83 carries for 1,036 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Paving the way for the skill position players is a mountainous offensive line of center Theran Blanck (5-8, 250) and guards Rudy King (6-1, 280) and Jacob Nash (6-3, 230).
Bumsted noted the Bearcats are similar in size to Pawnee, who the Marcos beat in Week 9, but with a significant difference.
“They’ll be the biggest team that moves,” Bumsted said. “Their big guys move pretty good.”
Stoller is also the team’s top defender with 109 tackles, including 44 solos. He also has nine tackles for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups and one safety.
Fellow linebacker Alex Barney has 65 tackles, including 14 solos, and a team-high 14 sacks.
Nash and Blanck anchor the defensive line and will provide a challenge for the Polo front anchored by Faivre, listed at 5-10, 195.
“We’ve been smaller than every line we’ve gone against all year,” Faivre said, “so I think we just keep the same game plan. Get off the ball quick and be tough. When you get moving, you get those big bodies moving, and it’s hard for them to stop. You get into them quick, start moving your legs and try to take them somewhere.”
The Marcos have yet to be stopped this season, as they’ve outscored 10 opponents by a combined score of 508-98. The closest they’ve come to being challenged was in the playoff semifinal against River Ridge; the Wildcats climbed within 24-20 midway through the second quarter, only to be outscored 40-0 the rest of the way.
Coffey paces a balanced rushing attack for Polo with 110 carries for 1,099 yards and 15 touchdowns, while Mumford had 64 carries for 794 yards and 18 scores at quarterback.
The other main rushing threats are Alex Davies (112-747, 14 TDs) and Jesse Powell (51-408, 6 TDs).
Mumford has completed 17 of 35 passes for 317 yards and seven touchdowns, with two interceptions. His top targets are Scott Prerost (8-49, 3 TDs), Joey Bardell (6-61, 1 TD) and Coffey (4-200, 3 TDs).
Milford-Cissna Park coach Clint Schwartz noted he has a good feel for what the Marcos do.
“Polo is a very physical team who lines up in double tight I-formation,” he said. “They want to run the football and be aggressive. They run a lot of option. They are well-coached, and are undefeated for a reason.”